Academic journal article Jewish Film & New Media

Holocaust Humor, Satire, and Parody on Israeli Television

Academic journal article Jewish Film & New Media

Holocaust Humor, Satire, and Parody on Israeli Television

Article excerpt

In the Israeli collective memory, the trauma of the Holocaust is not focused solely on events that occurred in the past. The sensitive relationships between Israel and the Arab nations, the decades-long Jewish-Palestinian conflict, the threat of annihilation, the continuing terrorist attacks and intifadas-all these have created an atmosphere of constant vigilance and ongoing anxiety. The Arab-Israeli conflict's length and violent nature also contribute to its wide-ranging and profound infiltration into Israel's sociocultural fabric.1 Since the state's earliest days, in addition to this fundamental condition of anxiety, the Holocaust's politicization in Israel has intensified even more the place of the trauma in the everyday personal and collective psyche, by rendering the Holocaust a continuing event that affects the present and future. Since Israel's founding, the Holocaust has been connected with the Jewish-Arab conflict,2 creating cultural-media representations that draw parallels between Arabs and Nazis, between Israel's wars and the possibility of a "second Holocaust." Researchers contend that Holocaust memory was and remains a crucial factor in perceptions of the reality of the conflict. It intensifies anxiety levels among Jewish Israelis and their sense of victimhood. The politicization of the Holocaust has caused the trauma of the Holocaust to be integrated with the Israeli present-day reality and replicated within it through the protracted Jewish-Arab conflict. This in turn has engendered a collective awareness of fear, insecurity, and constant anxiety stemming from the sense of existential danger.3

The politicization of the Holocaust has been reflected in Israeli culture from the late 1940s in cinema, literature, theater, and poetry; in the last several decades, it has also been depicted on Israeli television.4 Most of the representations in the first decades of Israel's existence were dramatic. But from the 1990s onward, Israeli artists also began to address the subject through satire. The case studies in this article focus on the satirical skits performed on episodes of The Chamber Quintet (Hahamishia Hakamerit; Matar Productions, Channel 2-Tela'ad, Channel 1, 1993-1997) and Wonderful Country (Eretz Nehederet; Keshet Productions, Channel 2-Keshet, 2003-2014). Comedic approaches to the Holocaust have appeared on other Israeli TV satires, but The Chamber Quintet and Wonderful Country are the main programs to deal with the politicization of the Holocaust. Analyses of Israeli TV satires about the Holocaust have appeared in only a couple of studies.5 This article will analyze the textual and subtextual narratives of the skits from the politicization perspective, while reviewing them in the larger context of the politicization of the Holocaust in Israeli culture.

Diverging from arguments that these humorous skits addressing the Holocaust disrespect the Holocaust and its survivors,6 this article maintains that they instead articulate the powerful position the Holocaust holds as a constituting event in the consciousness and identity of younger generations in Israel. It is seared into their souls, and its memory forms an integral part of their identity. Their profound emotional connection to the Holocaust indeed drives them to create these humorous skits, which do not diminish the Holocaust but rather critique the politicization of Holocaust memory in Israel. This essay reveals how artists who are members of the second and third generations of Holocaust survivors7 use humor in connection to the Holocaust as a rhetorical strategy-to reveal a new intellectual, ideological, and aesthetic point of view of the cataclysm's collective memory, one that is distanced from traditional discourses of the Holocaust in Israeli culture.

Politicization of the Holocaust in Israeli Culture

In Israeli culture the complex story of the Arab-Jewish conflict that accompanied Zionist settlement in Israel as early as the late nineteenth century was, after the Holocaust, often phrased simplistically. …

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